Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Gia Marie Carangi (January 29, 1960 - November 18, 1986) was an American fashion model during the late seventies and early eighties.
Carangi was born in Philadelphia, PA and had a turbulent childhood. Her parents fought constantly and split up during her adolescence. Her mother moved out and she was left to live with her father and brothers. Feeling abandoned by her mother, Gia began smoking marijuana, drinking and going out to clubs while barely a teenager.
When she was 17, Gia moved to New York City and was immediately signed to the prestigious Wilhelmina modeling agency. Within a year she had risen to supermodel status and was a favorite amongst top photographers including Richard Avedon, Francesco Scavullo, Arthur Elgort and Chris von Wagenheim.
Gia was bisexual, although all of her long term relationships were always with women and often unstable. She had an on again off again relationship with makeup artist, Sandy Linter. Gia was a regular at Studio 54 and the Mudd Club. Her drug use consisted of cocaine in the clubs, but later progressed to a heroin addiction.
On March 1, 1980 her agent and mentor, Wilhelmina Cooper died of lung cancer. Gia was devastated and her drug use accelerated. It was at this time when her career began to fall apart. She would throw temper tantrums, walk out on shoots and nod off in front of the camera. In the November 1980 issue of Vogue Gia's track marks from shooting heroin were visible even after airbrushing. She left the Wilhelmina agency and signed with Eileen Ford, but after just three weeks she was dropped.
Gia moved back to Philadelphia and enrolled in a 21-day detox program. She soon began using again and entered another detox program.
On March 9, 1981 photographer and friend, Chris von Wagenheim died in a car crash. Gia, upon hearing the news, locked herself in a bathroom and shot heroin for hours.
By the Fall she was ready to move back to New York and restart her career. Although hesitant to sign her, she was brought on by Monique Pillard of the Elite modeling agency. Gia's past had finally caught up with her and nobody would book her. Desperate, she turned to Scavullo. He put her on the cover of Cosmopolitan in the winter of 1982 as a gift. In the photo her arms were tucked behind her back to hide a large abscess on her hand brought on by excessive needle use.
Gia worked catalog jobs for a company in West Germany to pay the bills and sustain her drug habit. In the Spring of 1983 she was caught with drugs on a shoot in Africa and the only company that would book her let her go. Her modeling career was over.
Gia moved back home and entered a rehabilitation program at Eagleville Hospital. After six months she was released from the program and was finally clean and sober. She began taking classes in photography and cinematography. Three months later she vanished. She was found again in Atlantic City after she was raped and back on heroin. Shortly after Gia developed pneumonia and checked into a hospital in Pennsylvania.
Gia was diagnosed with AIDS. On November 18, 1986 she died of AIDS related complications at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia. She was only 26 years old and one of the first famous women to die from AIDS. No one from the fashion industry attended her funeral.